Best Sask Albums 2015
The Best Saskatchewan Albums of 2015
December 21/2015: Thank you to everyone who participated in our first ever year-end “Best Of” poll!
We closed voting with over 2000 voters logged from 13 countries.
It was a very tight race with numerous ties in the final results so we’ll actually be revealing the top 15 albums! We hope that through this poll that more people have come to realize and appreciate how much outstanding is created from here in Saskatchewan. You’re all winners in our books.
#10. A 3-way tie!
DARLENE TULETA: I Came Back
A native of Weekes SK, Darlene grew up surrounded by music, whether it was listening to it on the radio or getting the opportunity to see bands play live at various dances or functions. Her love for country music only grew stronger with the discovery of the females dominating the format including the likes of Dolly Parton, Patty Loveless, Lorrie Morgan, The Judds, Trisha Yearwood, among others. Her tender voice and and raw emotions tug on the heartstrings of the listener, and the powerful depths of her songwriting talents prove she will be around for years to come, as proven with the release of her seven song album, “I Came Back.” “I like the hurting songs,” she says. “There are a lot of those on this new project. I am extremely proud of the music, and I am anxious for people to hear it as well.”
JOHNNY 2 FINGERS & THE DEFORMITIES – McMillan’s Monster
Johnny 2 Fingers & the Deformities are a trio of rock n’ roll heat scores from Moose Jaw SK, defying the odds and using what they got to deliver a loud, weird and woolly performance. “Johnny 2 Fingers & the Deformities take their cues from southern-fried boogie rock and infuse it with a boozy belt of punk rock for good measure.” (Chris Morin, Ominocity) In January 2015, J2F & the D's began recording what would be their sophomore effort "McMillan's Monster" in Sweat Shoppe Studios in Saskatoon SK. The namesake of the album is a tribute to Dan McMillan, the man who awoke from a slumber but retained the memory from a dream in which he envisioned what would be the prototype of a pick prosthetic for Johnny 2 Fingers.
LEAGUE OF WOLVES: League of Wolves
Dillon Currie (vocals, guitar), Ethan Stork (bass), Aspen Beveridge (vocals, guitar), and Greig Beveridge (drums, vocals) have known each other from childhood. They started as small-town boys in an unknown group playing cover songs at open mics, but the Saskatoon rockers have evolved into a well-respected touring band, playing high energy rock with a purpose. These four young men have spent two years building their reputation the old-fashioned way: with live shows and raw recordings. This self-titled release was recorded entirely in an abandoned schoolhouse in Piapot SK.
#9 (TIE). BEARS IN HAZENMORE: Airwaves
Since its formation in 2014, Regina group Bears in Hazenmore has become known for their ambient soundscapes and ability to draw audiences in with intimate lyricism and enticing builds. Operating as a 5-piece ensemble that includes extensive use of effects-driven guitar, brass and woodwind textures, and dynamic percussion, they draw strong influences and comparisons to groups such as Bon Iver, Local Natives and Explosions in the Sky. A diversity of tastes from the members' rich backgrounds in jazz, classical and rock music resonates through their sound as well. The five members Brady Frank (lead vocals/guitar/keys), Dana Rempel (bass/sax), Darnell Stewart (guitar), Tanner Wilhelm Hale (drums/vocals), and Dalton Lam (trumpet) have their roots in Swift Current SK.
#9 (TIE). KACY & CLAYTON: Strange Country
The duo of Kacy Anderson and Clayton Linthicum interprets and composes music inspired by forms of traditional music from Southern Appalachia and the British Isles; much of their repertoire could easily be mistaken for hidden gems of decades past. Kacy’s completely unforced refreshing vocals are always in her own distinct and natural timbre. Clayton’s instrumental talents serve every song with modesty; he reserves his virtuosity for only those few transitions that require elaborate expression. Their return to form is no mere retro affectation; it is a respectful bearing of the torch passed on from their deep and studied musical heritage. Although young in age, they’ve been playing music together for over a decade and have created a distinctive and cohesive sound. They hail from Glentworth and Fir Mountain SK.
#8. BOMBARGO: Back on Main
This Saskatoon alternative rock group is infused with modern, bluesy and soulful stylings. Their sound is the lively embodiment of all their personalities shining through each respective instrument. The punchy conviction and energetic deliverance of Nathan Thoen’s vocals are matched by the rest of the group’s presence and relationship with the stage. The guitar tones of Spencer Chilliak range from psychedelic howling solos to intricate, rhythmic, overdriven riffs. Pairing the tasty guitar parts with Graham Tilsley’s driving bass lines, the music sits comfortably on top of a powerhouse of groove provided by Phil Kashap. With songs about believing in your potential, self-realization, and pursuing your dreams, these sonic trendsetters are not only skilled craftsmen at delivering great music, but they come with powerful and inspiring messages on- and off-stage.
#7 (TIE). ARTIFICIAL LIFT: Wasted Days
Artificial Lift is a 3-piece energetic progressive rock, blues and metal band situated in Lloydminster SK. Guitarist/singer Trent Bloch-Hansen, bassist Trent Paterson, and drummer/singer Deric Sheppard began playing together in 2013 as a jam band under the moniker Biggs Hosan. Releasing the 5-track “Ominous EP” in 2014, “Wasted Days” is a continuation of the band’s headbanging hard rock sound, with intricate guitar riffs, chugging, relentless rhythm, and lyrics about living in a modern industrial world.
#7 (TIE). THE SHEEPDOGS: Future Nostalgia
Since their inception, The Sheepdogs have sought to play the kind of music they themselves love: “Pure, simple, good-time music,” as singer/guitarist Ewan Currie puts it. It’s no surprise, then, that The Sheepdogs’ fifth LP, “Future Nostalgia,” is firmly rooted in the rock tradition that listeners have come to expect from the boys, with a foundation of feel-good vocal harmonizing and nasty guitar jamming. From their cramped Saskatchewan jam space to gold and platinum records and shows with rock icons, The Sheepdogs haven’t strayed from their goal of sharing pure, passionate rock n’ roll with anyone who’ll listen – and Future Nostalgia is packed with it.
#6. LIBRARY VOICES – Lovish
Library Voices is a congregation of childhood friends who grew up on a steady diet of basement shows, science fiction, and mid-west sincerity. Their self-produced third LP, LOVISH, was once again recorded in an old funeral home, and mixed by Dave Plowman and Alex Bonenfant (METZ, Crystal Castles, July Talk). The band, who once printed "Pop As F*ck” t-shirts, have upped the fuzz and upped the fidelity on LOVISH. Drawing on influences from The Sonics to Spiritualized, the seven-piece outlet carve away focused, concise indie hooks and then colour outside of the lines with saxophone, Farfisa, and analog synths. The spit and hiss of an old Space Echo and a busted up tape machine runs throughout the guitar-centric album.
#5 (TIE). COLTER WALL: Imaginary Appalachia
A young Swift Current-based songwriter/musician. Colter Wall is quickly attracting attention with his authentic take on Americana. His sound is comprised of resonate and raw baritone vocals, folk and bluegrass style guitar and banjo picking, steady kick-drum stomping, and visually provoking, storytelling lyrics. He draws influence from legends of the past such as Hank Williams, Robert Johnson, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Townes Van Zandt, and The Band, as well as more modern Americana pioneers including Shovels and Rope, Jack White, Ray Lamontagne, and Shakey Graves. The record was produced by Jason Plumb, with guest artists including The Dead South and Belle Plaine.
#5 (TIE). JESS MOSKALUKE: Kiss Me Quiet
A charismatic performer, Jess dominates the stage with her powerhouse vocals, country-pop style and infectious smile. Celebrated as the first female Canadian country solo artist to go Gold since Shania Twain, Jess’ accomplishments include achieving Gold status on her single “Cheap Wine And Cigarettes”, earning 2 JUNO nominations, and being crowned the 2014 and 2015 Canadian Country Music Association Female Artist of the Year, in addition to maintaining a very busy tour schedule. On “Kiss Me Quiet”, Jess brings her exceptional vocal ability to 6 single-worthy country tunes (plus bonus acoustic versions of 2 songs). The sweetheart of Langenburg SK nurtures connections with her fans both in-person and online, resulting in over 16million YouTube views so far. From a young start participating in local singing contests (including a win in Big Dog 92.7’s “Next Big Thing” artist competition) to her current Top 10 radio single, Jess enjoys a worldwide fanbase and will have another busy year ahead.
#4. RAH RAH: Vessels
“Regina's Rah Rah explore new territories in their fourth album, “Vessels.” Keyboards in hand, the band smooth down their likeable clamour and, in many songs, use sci-fi inspired lyrics to convey their tales of love and vulnerability. Vessels continues Rah Rah's high-energy sound and makes listeners shake, shiver and dance along to every song. Lyrically, it still mixes the light-hearted ("Good Winter") with the heavy-hearted ("The First Night We Met"), like the band have been successfully balancing since their 2008 debut, Going Steady. Their simple yet infuriatingly catchy pop melodies are still present, only now they're even slicker. “(Laura Stanley, Exclaim)
#3. MEGAN NASH: Song Harvest Volume One
Megan is a singer/songwriter residing in Palmer SK. She combines an honest portrayal of her human experience with a powerful voice to create a moving performance. “There’s injury and an open, perversely inviting sadness that reminds one of Elliot Smith. She has a Canadian charm, not unlike Serena Ryder. She has an audacious femininity, like Martha Wainwright. Her songs have some groove and northern darkness, kind of like Sondre Lerche.” - Sebastien Bell, Assiniboia Times.
Nash has opened for the likes of Serena Ryder, Amelia Curran, The Heartbroken, and Del Barber. She has toured the majority of Canada including the Northwest Territories. Nash's country background in evident in her current style but her songs are heavily influenced by artists such as Neko Case and Stevie Nicks.
"Showing off a voice that ranges from a soothing coo to a thunderous growl (all in the same song), Song Harvest Volume One tackles themes of love and loss without sounding cliché." - Exclaim!
"Thankfully, the production is kept to a minimum and, with sparse instrumentation as accompaniment, you can literally feel the walls shiver around her." - Ominocity, Best Albums of 2015 (So Far)
#2. CONSTANT REMINDER: CRLove (Volume VI)
Saskatchewan rock that mixes hard-edged music with charm and playfulness: this album of original music from Prince Albert favourites Constant Reminder speaks to their continuing maturing, personally and musically. Made up of four young and hard-working brothers, Seth (lead guitar), Cole (guitar, lead vocals), Ethan (bass) and Rene (Raynee) Constant (drums) started their rock careers very young and in the last years have toured the province in venues as small as school auditoriums and as large as exhibition grandstands.
Members of the James Smith Indian Reserve (Kinistino), they state, “Music was introduced to us at an early age through our parents – (they) would listen to all kinds of music, from classical to blues to country to fiddling to rock and roll and music of the day.” As a group, they count among their influences bands like The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, CCR, U2, Nickelback, BTO, Trooper, Aerosmith, John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, Muddy Waters, Charlie Pride, Keith Urban, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry, Elvis, and more!
They combine original lyrics and these influences of blues, classic rock, country, and ‘60s/’70s music. Very active in supporting community events and charitable causes, their goal is to take music as far as they can…”play anywhere, anytime, and (take) any opportunity to help, to influence and to inspire people young and old.”
#1. DGS SAMURAI CHAMPS: The Hard Tape
Since forming in 2013, DGS has been working tirelessly to contribute to Regina’s developing hip-hop scene, and has become known for their dynamic live performances and off-the-wall stage antics. Their unique sound and underlying concept ultimately come as the result of their Southeast Asian backgrounds working in conjunction with their Canadian identity.
Nono Ryan, a spoken-word poet who transitioned his art into rapping, is known for his allusive lyricism in songwriting, as well as his precision flow during rapid-fire verses. Merv Gotti has experimented in multiple genres, from guitarist in a hardcore band to his solo pursuits as a singer-songwriter, with indie-inspired R&B vocals carrying his approach to songwriting. With an instinctive ear for rhythm and an undying childhood love for hip-hop, Jeah has been practicing the arts of rapping and freestyling from a young age.
With their musical, as well as cultural, diversities as their primary weapon, DGS aims to redefine what it means to be “Canadian hip-hop”. Majorly influenced by recent Canadian heavyweights such as Drake, Shad, and the Weeknd, DGS offers their own variety of hip-hop by using their diversity as individual artists to drive their new-wave sound.
Point of information: There was no Long List created for the 2015 poll - all eligible albums went forward to voting. The Long List process was established in 2016.